State recognizes ‘grade A’ schools in Tulare, Fresno County

Reedley, Porterville and Terra Bella schools amongst list of schools to be awarded for excellence on California Distinguished Schools Program

Reedley Middle College High School sits in the back corner of the Reedley College campus March 4, 2024. The school allows students to take college courses while still in high school and was named a California Distinguished School for the second time in three years. (Serena Bettis)
Karis Caddell
Published March 5, 2024  • 
3:00 pm

SACRAMENTO – A handful of schools from the Central Valley have received high marks from the state after being recognized for their notable student performance and for closing achievement gaps.

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that 293 middle schools and high schools have been selected for the prestigious 2024 California Distinguished Schools Program. The schools awarded include Fresno County’s Reedley Middle College High School, as well as Tulare County’s Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore, Monache High and Pioneer Middle in Porterville, and Carl Smith Middle School in Terra Bella. 

This noteworthy recognition program emphasizes exceptional schools, specifically those making strides in closing achievement gaps and demonstrating outstanding student performance.

“It is my pleasure to honor and recognize these 293 secondary schools for their efforts to provide exemplary public education to all students,” Thurmond said via press release. “Excellent middle schools and high schools play a critical role in the life outcomes of our young people.”

The schools recognized are based on achieving exemplary performance in English language arts (ELA) and math, reducing suspensions and demonstrating high school graduation rates.

The acknowledgments for this year reflect the resilience of California’s students, educators and schools, according to the announcement. Alternating recognition between elementary schools, and middle/high schools means awardees hold their title for two years.

The process for choosing these distinguished schools involves the California Department of Education (CDE) using various measures, focusing on performance indicators outlined on the California School Dashboard. The data analysis from the 2023 dashboard emphasizes growth in academic achievement, as well as maintaining a positive school climate.

The schools which were recognized for closing the achievement gap enroll at least 40% of their students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition to demonstrating some high performances in ELA and math, the schools also achieved an accelerated academic growth for one or more student groups that are historically underserved.

The 2024 California Distinguished Schools, along with the 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools, 2023 Civic Learning Award Schools, and 2023 and 2024 California Exemplary Dual Enrollment Award Schools, will be recognized at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on May 3.

Since its inception in 1985, the California Distinguished Schools Award remains one of the state’s most important ways to celebrate exceptional schools, districts, teachers and classified employees for their innovation, talent and success in supporting students.

“This year’s California Distinguished Schools celebration provides us with an opportunity to recognize the hard work of our secondary educators and school staff who help our young adults discover passions and access college- and career-ready experiences that will propel them through life,”  Thurmond said.

Information regarding the 2023 Dashboard is provided on the CDE California School Dashboard and System of Support web page. For more information on the distinguished schools program, interested readers can visit the CDE California Distinguished Schools Program web page.

Karis Caddell